After one of those flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants days that seems to be happening all too frequently since we moved to E2 I was totally ready to be taken away from reality for a couple of hours... and luckily Matthew Bourne and his revised production of NUTCRACKER! at Sadler's Wells provided just the right vehicle.
This year has provided me with the opportunity of catching up with Bourne productions I have missed previously what with THE CAR MAN and now this revival of his 1992 reworking of the perennial Tchaikovsky ballet.
I have been a fan of Matthew Bourne since the early 1990s when Andrew invited me along to see DEADLY SERIOUS at the small Place Theatre in Euston and I immediately connected to his witty balletic tribute to Hitchcock. Since then I have seen THE PERCYS OF FITZROVIA, THE INFERNAL GALLOP, HIGHLAND FLING, SWAN LAKE, THE CAR MAN and PLAY WITHOUT WORDS and have enjoyed them all.
His qualities of witty irreverent choreography, strong narrative, excellent company work, individually delightful performances and moments of real pathos are all to be found in NUTCRACKER! allied to his always excellent choice of designers and lighting.
Kerry Biggin was a delightful Clara, the feisty but lovelorn orphan who escapes from a strict orphanage when a toy Nutcracker doll comes to life one magical Christmas night and effects her escape. The giant Nutcracker doll reveals himself to be a sexy man of her dreams and was wonderfully danced by Adam Vincent who also played the title role in THE CAR MAN earlier this year.
Apart from the two leads all the other dancers double up as related characters in Act 1 & 2 - the statuesque Michaela Meazzea was Sugar the spoiled daughter of the orphanage owner then the equally spoiled Princess of Sweetieland who steals the Nutcracker's affections from Clara; Shaun Walters was Sugar's equally horrid brother Fritz then the petulant Prince Bon-Bon while Adam Galbraith and Mami Tomotami were the nasty owner's of the orphanage then appeared as King Sherbert and Queen Candy.
All turned in delightfully characterised performances and among a strong supporting company a special mention to Ashley Bain as the extravagantly sensuous Knickerbocker Glory - all whipped cream hair with a cherry on top! I particularly like how in Sweetieland just being there meant you were liable to be licked by whoever you meet - indeed a frisson went through the audience when the King ran his hand up the Nutcracker's bum then licked his fingers!
The design by Anthony Ward was marvellous - ominous and grey for the orphanage, a lovely icy-blue for the frozen pond then an explosion of colour for Sweetieland - they should give out sunglasses in the interval! Howard Harrison's lighting also was wonderfully effective.
There is a fairly wide-ranging tour of the UK after it finishes it's run in late January so check out the website here - there's a nice video trailer on it - and catch it while you can. NUTCRACKER! is a delicious treat and a lovely way to (possibly) end my 2007 theatre going.